advocates for kids during toughest times
Article and photo by Chris Michlewicz
When the worst of the worst happens to a child, there’s a team dedicated to getting them justice and access to every available recovery resource.
The work by SungateKids is without a doubt some of the most difficult there is, but there’s also no question about the important role it plays in helping each abuse victim regain control of their life. The concept behind the organization’s inception 27 years ago was, at the time, revolutionary – convening a multidisciplinary team of experts to act in the best interests of children who experience sexual or physical abuse.
SungateKids employs highly-specialized forensic interviewers who know how to effectively work with an abused child. The interviewers testify in court, and SungateKids shepherds each child through the proper channels to get them the best care.
At the time, the organization’s efforts were often rebuffed because police investigators, for example, felt human services was intervening in law enforcement matters, and human services felt police were working in a complex area they did not fully understand. The result was a hodge-podge approach to abuse cases, marked by inconsistent methodologies, according to Diana Goldberg, who became executive director of the nonprofit three years after it was created.
“We knew for the ones who didn’t get skilled forensic interviewers, they were going to get a substandard interview, the facts weren’t going to come out, and the process might be more traumatic for them than the actual incident,” she said.
It is the job of SungateKids to bring everyone to the table to see the benefit of each organization’s contributions.
It’s hard to fathom, but SungateKids averages 700 interviews per year, and it serves only the 18th Judicial District, which encompasses Douglas, Arapahoe, Elbert and Lincoln counties. Approximately 90% of the kids are making allegations of sexual abuse, and in such cases there is rarely physical evidence, so each child’s disclosure of what happened to them is a “paramount piece of evidence,” Goldberg said.
SungateKids, which is based in Greenwood Village, works with 23 law enforcement agencies, four human services departments and the DA’s office, but it also runs a prevention program and free individual and group therapeutic support programs.
The Village at Castle Pines resident Leslie Ludolph started at SungateKids 20 years ago as a volunteer coordinator and now serves as assistant director, working with donors to raise money for the organization. Ludolph is motivated by the progression she sees in kids before and after they participate in SungateKids programming.
“The difference in the way a child’s face looks when they walk in, and they’re not really sure, and the relief you can see on their faces when they leave is incredible,” she said.
To learn more about SungateKids or to volunteer or donate, visit sungatekids.org.